Photo: Trusted Travel Girl

The True Cost of Being a Travel Writer

United States Hiking
by Valerie Joy Wilson | Trusted Travel Girl Dec 22, 2015

I SHOULD START BY SAYING THAT I CHOSE this crazy travel life, and I love it. I wouldn’t trade the opportunity to travel for anything, but I want to point out all the misconceptions about my rad lifestyle. Traveling isn’t all it’s cracked up to be- there is a price I pay for always being on the move.

Though my lifestyle comes across as one that everyone wants to live, there are several less-than-glamorous aspects that I am not quick to advertise. Everyone thinks that my life is all beaches and boozin’, but this is far from the truth.

Do you have any idea how many times a day I hear how “lucky” I am? Lucky? I’m not lucky. I have been working my ass off and I have made countless sacrifices to be traveling. I am so offended that people look at what I am doing not as hard work and bravery, but as if I slipped and landed right next to a secret golden egg. Like I won this life, a life that no one seems to have an accurate picture of. Just so everyone is aware, this job didn’t just exist. I created it. I created a brand based on my values and personally I think that took some guts.

No one cares

If something bad happens in my life, no one seems to care because my social media accounts make my life look like international sunshine & roses, which it’s not (at least, not all of the time). What am I supposed to do, divulge all of my life’s problems on Instagram? I make an effort to give even the worst of situations a positive spin. After all, it does not help to attract followers when you are constantly complaining, and isn’t the purpose of a platform like Instagram to post beautiful photos and inspire others? My job isn’t to paint an accurate picture of my life, it’s to inspire others to travel and experience the most they possibly can.

My real life and my Instagram life can be compared to a beautiful picture of a place you have always wanted to go, but upon arriving looks absolutely nothing like what you have imagined. You can see how the beautiful photo was captured; however, what that photo left out was the chaos surrounding the beauty. For instance, when you visit the ancient pyramids in Egypt — it looks like a desolate desert for miles around, when in fact, right next to the pyramids are loads of run-down tourist traps and garbage. Yet, when you set your gaze in a certain direction, you get the seemingly perfect picture. All it takes is a turn left or right, though, and the entire image changes. This analogy is the misconception of my life. Yes, I am going on all of these cool and amazing adventures, but turn to another facet of my life and and the picture isn’t as perfect as it seems. It is always your best face that you want to put forward. You don’t put the most generic picture of yourself as your Facebook profile picture, do you? No– you post the one where you look attractive, creative, adventurous or funny.

Egypt example

You think that the ancient pyramids are all alone in the desert with nothing for miles and miles?

Think again…

I bet that isn’t how you pictured the first glimpse of the Egyptian pyramids, and I bet you thought that I was all alone in the desert with the pyramids and the camera man?

Think again, I’m sharing my journey with all of these other travelers.

But that doesn’t make for the best photo does it? No. See, it’s all about perspective and what the photographer allows you to see.

Much of what I post can come across as bragging and self-indulgent, but that’s my job, to showcase incredible experiences. If I want to be the next Anthony Bourdain or Andrew Zimmern, I need to be cultivating and showcasing a lot of experiences. I’m not bragging, I’m just getting information out there, the best way I know how.

Life’s what you make it; I’m just looking for some understanding in what I give up to be afforded the privilege to travel.

My relationships suffer


I don’t have a best friend. I’ve had an interesting journey to lead me to not having a best friend, but travel is a huge culprit. I have been traveling non-stop for several years now, and it can be difficult to make advanced plans because when and where I go is often based on bargain airfare deals. Sometimes I leave town at the drop of a hat (we’re literally talking pack a bag and go with no plan) because I’m not going to miss out on an opportunity and a good flight deal. I am constantly in and out of town so much that no one can keep track of me. Even when I am home, I often get left out of things as well.

People are quick to replace you with new friends when you are gone for several weeks or an entire summer, and it can really suck. Moreover, the friends I make while traveling, or the ones that have also dedicated their lives to travel, are just as hard to track down as I am, and that can make for lousy friendships. But, at least we understand each other! Not having a best friend to rely on, that never forgets about you, really sucks sometimes. It’s not easy, and often times it can make being home isolating and depressing (even though I live in Los Angeles!). But, I wouldn’t trade traveling for all of the celebrity-studded parties I used to go to. I can still go sometimes, I’m just never first on anyones roster anymore. Additionally, most of the friends I have are spread out all over the country and the globe… it’s nice to have friends all over, but it can be difficult to miss people all over the planet.


The downfalls from traveling aren’t on my Instagram, but maybe this image will portray a more accurate picture of my life.

Dating is complicated enough when you work a normal job and stay in one place, but it becomes that much more difficult when you decide to become a global traveler. When the world is your oyster, most men in LA make me feel as though I would be settling if I ever dated them. The ones that do seem worth my time are the ones that are hard to get or not ready to settle down yet, because they are on their own adventures. Unfortunately, adventurous guys seem to not settle down until 40, if at all. Where are the men that want to adventure together with their girlfriend or wife? Beats me, but if you find out, let me know!

In all seriousness, it’s hard to find a guy to accept my lifestyle. I’m gone often, I’m independent as hell, and I want to be left to explore on my own sometimes. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to ever share these incredible experiences with someone. Guys think that my solo travels are sexy and intriguing at first, but leave a man’s sight for two or three weeks though, and trust me- he’s moved onto the next girl, one that actually sticks around town. You come back and suddenly realized that he has taken her on all the fun dates he promised you. It doesn’t make staying at home very appealing.

Additionally, I often meet incredible like-minded guys while I’m traveling. The kind that are driven, excited to see the world, and love to be challenged and learn. They usually think I’m pretty great as well, the problem is they usually live on the other side of the country, world, or they are just not up for any type of commitment. Or, in a more recent experience, it’s easy for them to see me as just a “good time girl” because they must think I find someone in every city that I’m in.


By constantly traveling every place but home, my relationship with my parents suffers. I’m 3,000 miles away and I see them for a few weeks during Christmas and summer, but even then the majority of my time is spent catching up with old friends. I have nothing in common with them anymore. I’ve seen the whole world, and they’ve seen a corner of it. My viewpoints are too different for them to understand, and so are my life goals. In the small town where I come from, dreaming as big as I do is considered a little nuts. Not to mention, my parents do not understand what I’m working towards, so they aren’t supportive.

I see myself as opening others up to new prospectives on the world and understanding all cultures by sharing my journeys. I think travel makes a big difference in your quality and value of your life. It makes you a more well-rounded, understanding, tolerant, caring improved form of human existence. My parents’ view is that travel is a “sorry-ass-excuse for a vacation” — at least thats what they said the first two times I tried to study abroad in Rome during college. Additionally, by not giving in to society’s oppressing and depressing “norms” of a 9-5 — in which you work your ass off to be miserable, drink after work, and spend your weekends in front of the television recovering from an awful week at an awful job — I’m somehow disappointing them. It’s a constant battle of “Get a real job” instead of them helping me learn to develop the one I already have. This is quite the load to bare, especially being an only child… constantly disappointing the people who raised you. Talk about a price to pay. Yet, if I sat behind a desk all day, I could never forgive myself, so here we are.

When I’m traveling, I’m actually working

When I travel I am NOT on vacation. Let me say it again, I am not on a vacation. Just like any corporate business trip, I am traveling for a job. I stay up late and wake up early to work. I have meetings, I’m viewing properties, and I’m trying to absorb a lot of information. I have to take and edit videos, arrange for and edit photos, write about my experience, and ensure that my clients are satisfied with my social media posts. These things all take hours apiece. Meanwhile, I’m trying to respond to emails for future trips.

As for that day you think I spent 8 hours skiing, it was cut down to only a few hours (many of which I worked), and any time that could have been spent relaxing or hanging out with other people was spent writing or planning for future travel instead. Is it better than a desk job, of course! However, that doesn’t mean everything is as it appears to be either. That point aside, I think it is safe to say I will never be able to take a true vacation, because I would just turn it into work. Vacation for me is hanging out at my parents’ house for a few weeks, and even then I’m still managing to work. I can never step away.

I am SO disorganized at home

Although I am a neat freak at heart and I love everything to have a place, it’s just not a reasonable expectation until I can afford the luxury of a live-in maid. I have not been fully unpacked before repacking once in the last year. I live in a very expensive city, which means unless I was born a Kardashian, or until I’ve truly “made it,” I have to make spacial sacrifices. I like nice things, and I have a lot of them. They are however kept in very specific places to save space. Two or three trips in a row, however, and chaos ensues. With all the packing and unpacking of clothes, cameras, laptops, souvenirs, and whatever else I tote across the globe, forget about it. I can’t see my floor. Literally.

Travel can really ruin a girl’s beauty regimen

My beauty routine really suffers in transit. I start off my journeys looking more or less put together, then next thing I know I have chipped nails, calloused feet, overgrown eyebrows and worst… really awful roots. My prestigious Beverly Hills hair salon is never shocked when I come in with terrible roots. I get busy traveling and next thing I know 2 or 3 months have gone by. I’m sure I’m an embarrassment every time I come in.

I’m not in the best shape of my life thanks to a lot of time away from my gym. I also pretty much eat whatever I want when I’m not home. I make up for it when I’m around with green smoothies and a clean diet and exercise, but I’m not as dedicated as I could be if I had a routine. As a female (especially in LA), its obvious that body image weighs heavily on me.

I have missed out on other life goals

Besides traveling the globe and working toward having my own travel show someday (hello CNN, Travel Channel, Discovery…), I do have other ambitions. I’m not where I thought I was going to be in life. I thought by my late 20’s I would have been married for a while now and planning on having kids. Nope, now I worry and wonder if I’m ever going to settle down. How am I supposed to have travel and have a family too? It’s not impossible, but it certainly isn’t easy. First, I’d have to find someone with the same priorities as mine, and you know, a guy that doesn’t move on to the next when I leave for a few weeks.

My health

I am worn out! I am constantly on planes, trains, buses, cars, boats, ox drawn carts, you name it… and being around everyone else’s germs can get me very sick! Time changes are killer too. Did you know it takes one full day for every hour of time change for your body to properly adjust? You can imagine how confused my sleep schedule is. When I finally come home, I crash and burn. Usually I have just enough energy after one trip to unpack, do some laundry and repack for the next trip. Forget going to the gym!

I go without

Though I go without buying other things, my biggest expense outside of travel is my rent, bills and groceries. Other than that, I don’t really spend a lot. I rarely shop. I am always down to take friends’ hand-me-downs of their clothes and accessories because buying my own isn’t always a priority. I like nice things, and occasionally you’ll see me splurge, but I look at everything I buy as a percent of a plane ticket (That pair of Chanel shoes I bought was a trip to Japan), and tangible goods & fancy dinners just aren’t as important to me as travel. I also go without visiting friends, or visiting my family because I prefer to spend that money visiting new places. I also go without pay. Sometimes the work that I do is for trade, and I’m not always getting paid to review that swanky hotel, not when they comped me for five nights. That trip is great, but I still have to worry about bills — I’m not on an unlimited budget, although many seem to think that I am.

I’m sure that those who are on the road more than I, like Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern, would both agree that the more you are on the go, the bigger these obstacles become. Balancing your “normal” life and that life you left behind in the last country you were in, the lines get blurry. It’s never going to get easier, but we wouldn’t stop because the price we pay is completely worth it when you get to sit down next to a stranger who doesn’t speak your language, yet you can still communicate while sharing a meal and a smile. THAT is what real life and travel is all about. And when I think of that, suddenly all the prices I pay fade into oblivion and I’m off, on another adventure.

So when you ask if it’s all worth it? The answer is hell yes! Just don’t call me “lucky” or assume my life is easy and glamorous, and don’t think that it doesn’t come with a price tag because it sure does!

This article originally appeared on Trusted Travel Girl and is republished here with permission.

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